I have set myself the task of rising early and reading through the Great Books of the Western World each morning. I won’t read every volume, I may not even finish every book I begin, but I will spend time every day talking to and thinking with the greatest writers who ever lived.
I have spent time this morning reading the Preface to the Great Conversation. Here Robert Hutchins explains how the set was conceived, how it came into being and why and how it was organized. It was a gargantuan task.
I feel such genuine, deep gratitude to the men who made this set a reality. I can’t thank them enough for the years of study, thought and work that were necessary to create it. It gives me the opportunity to find, in one place, many of the most important writings of all time. Now all I have to do is the make the time to sit down and think.
Two of my favorite quotes by Mortimer Adler about liberal arts education are:
“Liberal education frees our minds by disciplining them.”
“All books will become light in proportion as you find light in them.”
Hutchins put the matter of “my study of truth” in the Great Books clearly in the Preface I read this morning when he said of this set:
“Here are the great errors as well as the great truths. The reader has to determine which are the errors and which the truths.”
My new task: I will discipline my mind by using the study skills I teach to read and understand the greatest books ever written—to the best of my ability. And I will search for the light and truth they contain and learn to discern between truth and error.
So I will start tomorrow with The History of Herodotus (maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m skipping the Iliad and the Odyssey).
Here's a funny video of Mortimer Adler- he helped compile the Great Books set and wrote the Syntopicon. This is what he said about reading the Great Books (he was almost 90 years old here, by the way):